New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he's not going to resign in the wake of mounting allegations of sexual harassment and an allegation of groping, along with calls from multiple members of the state's congressional delegation for him to step down.
"I did not do what has been alleged, period," he told a news conference Friday. "Politicians who don't know a single fact but yet form a conclusion and an opinion are, in my opinion, reckless and dangerous.
"Wait for the facts, then you can have an opinion," he said, referring to the investigations into the allegations against him.
The Democratic governor — who also faces scrutiny over his administration's reporting of COVID-19 deaths among nursing home residents — has denied he ever touched anyone inappropriately, and has said he's sorry if he ever made anyone uncomfortable.
A seventh person also came forward on Friday with additional allegations. Reporter Jessica Bakeman, writing for magazine, said Cuomo had often put his hands on her, including once when taking a picture with her at a 2014 holiday party when she said he remarked, "I'm sorry. Am I making you uncomfortable? I thought we were going steady."
Senators join call for resignation
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand became the latest Democrats from New York to call for Cuomo to step down.
"Confronting and overcoming the COVID crisis requires sure and steady leadership. We commend the brave actions of the individuals who have come forward with serious allegations of abuse and misconduct," they said in a joint statement. Both had earlier said an independent investigation into the allegations was essential.
"Due to the multiple, credible sexual harassment and misconduct allegations, it is clear that Governor Cuomo has lost the confidence of his governing partners and the people of New York. Governor Cuomo should resign."
A majority of state lawmakers are calling on him to resign, and Democratic congressional members including U.S. Reps. Jerry Nadler, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, Grace Meng and Antonio Delgado joined those calls Friday. Nadler said Cuomo has lost the confidence of New Yorkers.
"The repeated accusations against the governor, and the manner in which he has responded to them, have made it impossible for him to continue to govern at this point," Nadler said.
The delegation also pointed to sweeping criticism of Cuomo for keeping secret how many nursing home residents died of COVID-19 for months. The governor has claimed his administration had to verify deaths of residents at hospitals, but critics question why that hasn't held up the release of data in other states.
"After two accounts of sexual assault, four accounts of harassment, the Attorney General's investigation finding the Governor's admin hid nursing home data from the legislature and public, we agree with the 55+ members of the New York State legislature that the Governor must resign," Ocasio-Cortez tweeted.
On Thursday, state Democrats signed off on an impeachment investigation and police in the state capital said they stood ready to investigate the groping allegation.
The firestorm grew after the Times Union of Albany reported Wednesday that an unidentified aide had claimed Cuomo reached under her shirt and fondled her at his official residence late last year.
The woman hasn't filed a criminal complaint, but a lawyer for the governor said Thursday that the state had reported the allegation to the Albany Police Department after the woman involved declined to do so herself.
"In this case the person is represented by counsel and when counsel confirmed the client did not want to make a report, the state notified the police department and gave them the attorney's information," said Beth Garvey, the governor's acting counsel.
Cuomo accused the state and federal lawmakers of engaging in "cancel culture."
"People know the difference between playing politics, bowing to cancel culture and the truth," he said. "Let the review proceed. I'm not going to resign. I was not elected by the politicians; I was elected by the people.
Cuomo is under pressure not only for the alleged personal misconduct with women but also allegations that his administration concealed how many nursing home residents died of COVID-19.
Federal investigators are also scrutinizing how the Cuomo administration has handled data about how many nursing home residents have died of COVID-19. The governor and his aides argued for months that it couldn't release full figures on deaths because it had yet to verify the data.
Cuomo won praise during the pandemic's first wave for his frequent, blunt updates on the coronavirus, with his news conferences often carried live by national cable networks.
The top Democrat in the state Assembly, Speaker Carl Heastie, on Thursday backed a plan for its judiciary committee to launch an impeachment investigation.
The committee can interview witnesses and subpoena documents and its inquiry could be wide-ranging: from alleged sexual misconduct to COVID-19 outbreaks at nursing homes. It won't interfere with a separate inquiry of sexual harassment allegations being conducted by state Attorney General Letitia James, according to Heastie and James.
After two accounts of sexual assault, four accounts of harassment, the Attorney General’s investigation finding the Governor’s admin hid nursing home data from the legislature & public, we agree with the 55+ members of the New York State legislature that the Governor must resign. <a href="https://t.co/jV5dwtuVPr">pic.twitter.com/jV5dwtuVPr</a>
"The legislature needs to determine for itself what the facts are," a member of the committee, Assemblyman Tom Abinanti, said. "For the people who want immediate impeachment, I think we say please be patient. The process is slow. This could be the next step."
Cuomo faces multiple allegations that he made the workplace an uncomfortable place for young women with sexually suggestive remarks and behaviour, including unwanted touching and a kiss. One aide claimed the governor's aides publicly smeared her after she accused him of sexual harassment.
"All of us are extremely disappointed," Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, a Democrat representing Orange and Sullivan counties in New York state, told The Associated Press. "I think there's no room in the world right now for that kind of behaviour. He should have known better."
A group of 59 state Democrats, including 19 senators and 40 Assembly members said in a letter Thursday that it's time for Cuomo to go.
"In light of the governor's admission of inappropriate behaviour and the findings of altered data on nursing home COVID-19 deaths, he has lost the confidence of the public and the state legislature, rendering him ineffective in this time of most urgent need," the letter said. "It is time for Gov. Cuomo to resign."
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has frequently clashed with Cuomo, has also called on him to step down.
Cuomo has repeatedly said he won't resign and urged the public to await the outcome of the attorney general's investigation.
In the newest allegation against Cuomo, the Times Union of Albany reported that the governor had summoned the aide to his Albany mansion, saying he needed help with his cellphone. After she arrived, Cuomo closed the door, reached under her shirt and fondled her, the newspaper reported.
The newspaper's reporting was based on an unidentified source with knowledge of the woman's accusation, who said she first told the story to someone on Cuomo's staff in recent days. The newspaper hadn't spoken to the woman and didn't identify her.
"I have never done anything like this," Cuomo said through a spokesperson Wednesday evening.
According to the Times Union account, one of the woman's supervisors told an attorney in the governor's office about her account Monday. The report to Albany police was made Wednesday, after the newspaper had posted its story.
With files from CBC News and Reuters
Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca